Kickin’ It in Croatia With Action Bronson & DJ Premier: One Writer’s Experience at 2014 Outlook Festival [EXCLUSIVE]
If you’ve ever witnessed your favorite rapper take the stage at an outdoor music festival, you know the feeling that comes over you once you hear that beat drop. Now imagine if that rapper was Kendrick Lamar. While in Croatia for the 2014 Outlook Festival, the sounds of the Compton, Calif.-bred MC were on blast as a DJ played his music before Action Bronson took the stage. Watching Action perform at historic Fort Punta Christo during the five-day festival in September was a once in a lifetime opportunity. There’s a chance for you to catch Kendrick’s talents in a similar travel meets music journey at the BACARDI Triangle event this month.
During the three-day BACARDI Triangle event in the Bermuda Triangle (which is free if you win), Kendrick is set to perform his biggest bangers as part of a special weekend line-up that also includes British pop singer Ellie Goulding and DJ Calvin Harris. You can win a chance to experience these special performances right here.
At the Outlook Festival, the party never stopped. Attendees set sail on dozens of boats throughout the week as DJs provided thrilling sounds on the Mediterranean, celebrating the ever-evolving sounds of bass music and soundsystem culture -- reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, dubstep and jungle are all included. Many festival fans camp out in a fort to stay close to the excitement that begins at noon and lasts until 6AM each day. Plus, there are glorious views to take in and live music sets from more than 400 artists on nine unique stages.
This is a travel diary of select performances, sights and sounds from the musical extravaganza. DJ Premier, Barrington Levy and Action Bronson are just some of the names you'd recognize taking the stage. The Boombox was in the trenches to give you an inside look at the 2014 Outlook Festival, now in its seventh year. While this festival diary can't compare to actually experiencing the event firsthand, your chance to watch Kendrick perform new songs like ‘i’ live is as simple as entering the BACARDI Triangle contest. Until then, enjoy this journey.
My heart flutters as if it’s my first time attending a festival. A self-pep talk ensues. “You’ve done this before; all festivals are essentially the same.” But this is Croatia -- something new. “Are you here for the festival?” a husky taxi driver asks me upon landing at Pula, Croatia’s airport. “Yes.” “Yeah, it’s a bunch of people. A bunch of crazy people,” he says, pointing his finger at his head. He takes me to my destination, passing narrow roads surrounded by greenery and graffiti buildings and we reach the entrance of Fort Punta Christo.
A young woman wearing braids directs me to a path that leads me to the box office where I pick up my press credentials. Security guards, dressed in plain clothes and neon vests, check bags to make sure no weapons or drugs are being brought into the Outlook Festival. There's another winding, rocky path to navigate through before finally reaching the festival area.
From 12PM to 8PM, there's a slew of DJs and artists performing on the beach. At 7:30PM, the stage is being owned by British duo Anushka, made up of singer Victoria Port and DJ Max Wheeler. Port’s feathery and contagious melodies coat Wheeler’s uptempo electronic beats and the crowd dances to the chill vibes until the cord is cut. They dwindle. Many climb up to the festival stages, where acts are set to perform until 6AM.
The Clearing is the first stage attendees see upon walking the stony hill. While waiting for a chicken burger at a vendor across from the large venue, I fell in love -- with a DJ that is. The sounds of James Brown blared from the speakers. Those walking past couldn’t help but to get on the good foot as they heard the Godfather of Soul. With food in my hand, I walked closer to get more intimate with London DJ Funkineven. He transitioned into deep house and a cluster of listeners caught fever off his selections. Signed to Eglo Records and leader of his own Apron label, Funkineven is currently on his Ouchea Tour throughout Europe until December.
“Action, Action. Action….,” the crowd chants in front of the Harbour Stage. We're anxiously awaiting the bearded Queens, N.Y., MC at 11:30PM. Action Bronson, gourmet chef-turned-rap sensation, has accrued a solid following internationally since his 2011 debut ‘Dr. Lecter.’ The rapper, whose been compared to Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, features much of New York’s boom-bap era in his music.
When Crystal Waters’s throwback pop-house hit ‘100% Pure Love’ plays, Bronson, dressed in all-black, walks on stage. ‘Da f--- is going on?’ he yells. Anxious fans clap and scream for him. He proceeds to spit a dozen live versions of cuts off his six studio albums, including ‘The Don's Cheek' and ‘Shiraz,’ and is joined by fellow Queens MC Meyhem Lauren for their track ‘Jackson & Travolta.’
Bronson often reminds the audience they should be grateful for his presence. "I came all the way from New York City to be here. This feels good," he states. The rhymer jumps off stage mid-set, over the barricade and gets lost in the crowd for at least five minutes. Frantic security guards search for him, before he resurfaces on the stage.
The 30-year-old’s final song was his latest ‘Easy Rider,’ the first single from his forthcoming project ‘Mr. Wonderful.’ “When I die play this at my funeral," he proclaims. Before he exits, a photographer runs on stage to grab the rotund rapper. Bronson fights him off before two security guards grab the groupie up. He lifts his arm in victory as the crowd erupts in booming cheers. The showcase of strength was clearly staged but it’s uncertain whether everyone realizes this. “Wow! That was freaking incredible,” one onlooker says to me.
This was meant to be. Earlier this summer, I came across the soulful chanteuse Fatima on Soundcloud and was captivated by her flowy, plush vocals over moody and boomy records. The singer performed at the Outlook Festival’s opening concert headlined by Lauryn Hill at the 2,000-year-old Pula Amphitheatre -- the night before I flew in. But thanks to second chances, I made it to the beach to see Fatima's live set. The singer, a Swede currently living in London, effortlessly delivered piping hot vocals from her debut album, ‘Yellow Memories,’ which dropped in June on Eglo Records. The wavy crowd moved to her acoustic rhythms as the sun set and the full moon took residence in the sky at nightfall.
THE GARDEN STAGE
Up the hill and hundreds of feet past the Clearing Stage lies the Fort, where the remaining venues are located on the ground. Passing through more security guards, to the left and down a hill was the quaint Garden stage. There I was schooled on the rich, ever-evolving sounds of bass culture from the United Kingdom, much of what was foreign to my American ears. Madame X from Manchester, U.K., spun a power-hour set and commanded her audience into a dance trance.
Through cracked holes in a fence surrounding an underground 300-foot long strip, you find the most memorable venue space at Fort Punta Christo. Passersby watched as hundreds of hot steppers gave themselves to the house vibes reverberating off of the 16-foot high walls around the Moat. Dozens of other kids, who wanted to join the grooves down below, waited on line as security guards let people in and out to control the crowd.
As the clock struck 1:30AM, legendary hip-hop producer DJ Premier made his way to the Harbour Stage, where he was met with adoring fans. Primo opens with the chirpy bass of ‘Nas Is Like.’ He bobs and weaves out of early hip-hop records, such as Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook Ones’ and M.O.P.’s ‘Ante Up,' songs released when some of those in the crowd was too young to remember their peak.
But this audience is filled with old souls. They erupt in a roar when hearing ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ as if it's once again 1997, the year Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Life After Death’ was released. “I represent one thing. I represent real s---,” Primo yells into the microphone. Premo’s set is filled with a homage to many late and greats. One included is his Guru, his former partner in Gangstarr -- he tragically died of a heart attack in 2010. Preem also pours out sonic libations for the late Tupac and producer J. Dilla. When he spins James Brown, he also asks the crowd to do a soul clap.
This performance is a rare treat for everyone. The idea of hip-hop being a global phenomenon takes on a new meaning as I witness the largely European audience's love for the genre. And though 4,200 miles away from home, in this moment, Pula certainly feels just like it.
Back at the Harbour Stage on the last night, the sounds of reggae and dancehall are being selected by British radio pioneer and actor David Rodigan. Since the age of 15, he has been a DJ, getting his start at school parties and later taking prime time slots at Radio London and BBC Radio 1Xtra, among other stations. He prepped the audience for the legendary reggae pop singer Barrington Levy. “He came all the way from his home in Jamaica,” said Rodigan. “He doesn't do many live shows anymore.”
The 50-year-old, known for his unique scat (an idiosyncrasy), rose to fame as a teen in Jamaican dancehalls in the 1970s, and has released more than 30 albums since. The younger hip-hop generations came to know his voice through sampling. Rapper Shyne’s 2000 record ‘Bad Boyz’ borrowed from Levy’s ‘Here I Come.’ He also lent vocals to the spitta’s single ‘Bonnie & Shyne.’
At 2:45AM, after some technical difficulties, Levy arrives. He hops and skips across the stage for live renditions of dozens of his reggae classics including ‘Black Roses,’ ‘Murderer’ and ‘Too Experienced.’ Midway through his set, the bass in his band, gave trouble. The music stopped but the show went on. He followed with an a cappella version of ‘Here I Come' and the crowd sang the lyrics for him. Later, he got down and came face to face with those along the front row, slapping fives with anyone who could reach for his hand. The legend also played his latest record ‘Rosie,’ to be featured on his forthcoming opus in 2015.
“Can I go home now?” Levy asks melodically to the crowd. “Noooo,” screams the crowd. Levy, who has spent his whole life performing is a rarity in the music world, proves to be a timeless artist. This younger generation of music lovers lovingly jam rock with him for an hour-and-a-half, even years past his prime.
At 4AM, it’s nippy. A sea of hoodie-wearing festival fans lurk around the Fort Punta Christo grounds, holding on to the final hours of the week-long shenanigans. Others are over it and disperse towards the exit and camping areas. In less than two hours, the sun will be rising. Many will pack up their tents and fly back west to school or work. Some are coughing. Lack of sleep combined with binge drinking, puffing cigarettes and screaming at the top of their lungs for their favorite rappers and singers has caught up to them. The words spoken to me by the taxi driver I first encountered in Croatia replay in my head. Yes, this was a “crazy” festival but that's how it should be. If it wasn't, the memories just wouldn't be the same.
Here's your chance to indulge in an odyssey where travel meets music. Just like the Outlook Festival, you’ll have the opportunity to travel to see some of your favorite artists like Ellie Goulding, Calvin Harris and Kendrick Lamar perform on a tropical island. That’s a once in the lifetime opportunity that we’re ecstatic about so you should be too. Enter the BACARDÍ Triangle Sweepstakes to win a trip to an island off the Bermuda Triangle, where you'll get to experience an epic 3-night music event to see these chart-topping entertainers take the stage. You'll have to enter here to join in on the fun.